GREEN FRIDAY: The 7 Plastics

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As Earth Day steadily approaches (April 22, 2018- mark your calendars), you may begin to hear the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” over and over. It’s a phrase that you may have first heard in elementary school and it seems very simple. But is this practice more complex than your kindergarten teacher let on?

“Reduce,” is fairly easy: you reduce the amount of electricity you use by turning off the lights in rooms that you aren’t in. You could engage in the “Reducetarian” movement by limiting the amount of animal products you consume.

“Reuse,” is also incredibly simple. Buy a reusable water bottle in the efforts to use less plastic bottles. Buy second hand clothing and avoid “fast fashion” to limit unsafe textile production.

“Recycle,” is a little bit tricky. Technically, you can recycle metals, papers, glass, batteries/bulbs, electronics, and plastics. Categories like batteries and papers are fairly simple- for the most part, all paper is recyclable. There are, however, some categories that aren’t as simple.

Categories like plastics. No, not the clique from Mean Girls. The actual material. Humans use plastic every single day and it can be found in thousands of our products. From facial cleansers to our cell phones, it’s everywhere. Interestingly enough, not all plastics are created equally.

There are 7 types of plastics: polyethylene terephthalate, high-density polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, low-density polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, and others.

The image above divides the 7 plastics and gives you examples as to what products we use fall into the categories. Each plastic has different rules as to how to recycle them which can be overwhelming for anyone that wants to begin recycling consistently.

1. Polyethylene Terephthalate is most comparable to your Zephyrills water bottle (Dasani sucks, sorry). These absolutely should be recycled by just placing them in your recycling bin or finding a plastics bin around campus. These should NOT be reused as they could eventually leach carcinogens and promote bad bacterial growth.

2. High-density Polyethylene is considered one of the safest plastics (think of Karen) and is similar to a milk jug. This plastic is very hard wearing which means it takes forever to break down in the environment. These are safe to reuse and are the easiest to recycle as well- just place them in your bin!

3. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is also known as the “poison plastic.” It is most like the clear plastic that covers children’s toys. It’s considered poisonous because it can leach harmful toxins at literally any point in its life cycle. Only1% of this form of plastic is recylable. It is recommended that you do not try to recycle this sort of plastic nor do you try to reuse it.

4. Low-density Polyethylene plastic is used for garment bags or shrink wrap. It is not toxic like other plastics and is considered safe to reuse! Recycling may be difficult because you need to turn it into the recycling area for your city. Some cities do not allow for its citizens to recycle this but luckily DeLand does!

5. Polypropylene is a light-weight, heat resistant plastic. Think of the plastic lining your cereal comes in. Only about3% of this plastic is currently being recycled in the United States. Although the Volusia county says they accept plastics 1-7, this small percentage makes me wonder about whether they actually recycle. Although it’s difficult to recycle, it is 100% safe to reuse.

6. Polystyrene is a cheaply made plastic most commonly used for Styrofoam containers. Although it breaks down in size easily, the natural environment cannot make it disintegrate which leaves tiny white plastics all over beaches and landfills. Most curbside recycling will not accept this plastic. This plastic is not considered safe and should be avoided.

7. The others are a little strange. Because it is a catch-all, there isn’t a standard recycling protocol in place for these products. These are usually not reusable.

Take time out of your day to clean and sort your plastics to help our environment. Happy Green Friday!

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